It had to happen. I’ve been dreading this conversation even more than the one we already had about the “birds and the bees.” After all, that was just stuff easily discussed about basic biology, some good-feeling stuff, and some high-octane emotions all tangled up in a cosmic stew necessary to keep the human race going.
But this conversation was a bit more serious. Because this involves things like magic, the wonder of childhood, and most important: faith and doubt.
I should have known something was brewing a few days prior when my husband told me he found a couple boxes of laxatives laying on the bathroom counter. I hadn’t noticed, I told him. The deep forest of bathroom products on the counter is pretty dense after all. Stay with me, it’ll make sense soon enough.
You see our baby-yet-not-a-baby-anymore, but rather tweenaged screenager and I had just had a very enlightening conversation on the way to the library.
“Mom, I read an article online that said that NORAD denied the existence of Santa, and they aren’t tracking Santa anymore because Santa is a hoax! Is that really true?”
Startled, I started going thru a mental rolodex of thoughts simultaneously:
- I’m about to rip his heart out.
- Why did I wait so long to talk to him? I should’ve had this conversation long ago.
- He’s going to think his parents are LIARS!
- If he can’t trust me at Christmas, how in the world will he trust me in bad times?
- He’s going to lose the magic of Christmas, right here and now, while we wait in the Starbucks drive through line.
- Christmas is going to be sad now.
- What if he doubts what I’ve told him on other things, like the existence of God?
“Well, what do you think?” I shot back.
“That’s why I’m ASKING you Mom! I need to know.”
Since we were in a drive through line, I asked him to show me the web article on his phone.
So he showed me this:
“Wait a minute,” I said. “It says right here, and I quote:”
In response to a story from the Washington Examiner — titled “Air Force confirms Santa Claus isn’t real while chiding quarreling bases on Twitter” — the Air Force walked back its initial claims.
“Santa is real!” claims the article’s author. I quoted this line from it: “Bluffing to get @Whiteman-AFB and @TeamMinot in line. Tracking him in Dec.”
“See! You just have to read the last two paragraphs of the article” I said obviously stalling. “You see, there is always someone that wants to kill the Christmas magic, even in the military sometimes, but it clearly says at the end of the article he is real.”
Wrong choice, Mom! (Screams my inner voice)
I could see he was getting more agitated. He started telling me scientifically it just doesn’t make sense. There are too many houses–houses without chimneys and millions of kids who live in huts or high-rise apartments. He doesn’t have to totally understand Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to realize somehow that if Jeff Bezos can’t get birthdays done with a jabillion employees, how in the world does an overweight, ever-aging Santa pull Christmas off each year?
“I just don’t see how Santa delivers all those presents to every kid all over the entire world!”
Believe me, it ain’t easy! I internally screamed thinking only of my three kids over the last 30 years!
More questions ensued. I just kept asking him what he believed and thought.
And then it hit me. The jig is up. It’s time to come clean about Santa.
I was just about to open my mouth to speak and tell him the bittersweet truth in love.
But then he surprised me with this:
“So that’s why I got the baking soda and the laxatives out earlier.”
“Yeah. I’ve been checking different websites online and about half say Santa is real and the other half say he isn’t. It says here on this site, if you want PROOF that Santa is real, you should sprinkle baking soda on your floor and that way when he puts out gifts, he’ll probably leave a boot print. And it also says you should put laxative pills in the milk we leave out with the cookies.”
“WHAT?!?!? WHY??” I asked incredulously.
“Because that way if it is your parents, you’ll know for sure, because they’ll be in the bathroom a lot on Christmas day.”
Okay. Now I knew he needed to know the truth for sure. If only to make sure my plan for a desperately-needed, post-holiday nap would not be foiled. Instead this little angel child was actually considering wrecking my intestinal balance in order to prove a scientific hypothesis he had been contemplating.
“Are you trying to tell me you would actually allow your parents to be semi-poisoned to prove your theory denying the existence of Santa? Furthermore, what IF Santa IS real? Now you just gave him the gift of the runs after he was so kind to pay you a visit. Is that anyway to treat someone who’s been so good to you all these years?
At that moment we both started laughing. We laughed so hard for so long. But inside I was crying a little bit. Then we both grew very quiet. He was looking out the window as if far away. And looking in the rear view mirror at my last-born son, I knew this sweet magical tradition we’ve carried for a little over three decades with all our kids was finally coming to a close.
I know. Don’t say it. I waited way too long.
The thing is, I didn’t mean too. The truth is, a bunch of things happened along the way, and time slipped away while I was so busy tending to more urgent things. Suddenly, like his siblings before him, he too has grown up, perhaps the fastest of all.
I mean, it seems like yesterday when he sat joyfully on Santa’s lap year after year. Well, except for the year when he was two, and for some reason this was the year he was traumatized by the mere sight of the jolly fat man in the red suit at the mall. In his annual portrait that year, he is sitting on his middle school-aged sister’s lap. She is holding back hysterical laughter. His red teary eyes are more blood shot then Snoop Dogg on a Sunday morning. I’m terrible, but in some ways this is my favorite picture of all. Partly because it’s funny, but partly because I knew then he would grow so fast. That moment that seemed so scary then, would be met with joy and elation the following year. And it was.
And the year after, and the year after that. Until suddenly, it was this year, and I realized we forgot to get our picture made with Santa this year. And last year too. And probably even the year before that.
“Son,” I told him. “Now, you know another hard truth in life. The Santa that you had always envisioned in your head doesn’t really exist. But there was a real Saint Nicholas. And there are many people of days gone by and many people now who keep the spirit of Santa alive by being one of his helpers. It’s a sacred honor when you think about it. Parents and various helpers (like grandparents and mall Santas and elves) love to keep the magic alive, because they remember how they felt as a child when they believed.”
“I know you know the real reason we celebrate Christmas—it’s to celebrate Jesus birth and remember what He did for us. And Jesus IS real and so is His power in our lives. This part of Christmas will always be true.”
“Of course Mom! I know that’s why we celebrate! I know it’s not just about getting gifts.”
I continued: “I know you know this too; it’s often a horrible and scary world we live in now. You know terrible and dreadful things about people in this world now I wish you didn’t have to know, but you do because these things are true. Denying the existence of these evil things won’t make them any less true. Some things you have to know, so you can plan on how to stay safe. But I see that continuing to treat you like an innocent child in this regard isn’t doing you any favors. I think your heart has been questioning for some time it sounds like. And I don’t ever want to lie to you.”
“Oh mom! No, I’m fine. I was just afraid YOU would be really sad that I was figuring this stuff out. That was making me sad too. I’m going through a lot of things in my head these days, but I HAD to know. I just did.”
By now we were both sipping on our adult beverages. I’m talking about coffee here. Don’t rush it. 12 is just 21 looking back in the mirror.
“You know, I’m really excited now that I know mom. I have a whole Christmas plan! Of course, Santa will always be real in my heart. But now it’s even better, because I get to be Santa.”
The next three hours he talked non-stop of things he wants to do this Christmas. He hasn’t been this excited in a long time. He talked about things he could do for and with his grandmas. And his brother and sister. He mentioned things he could make for his dad and other people we know and love. He asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I told him anything that is FREE and HOMEMADE means the most to me! And breakfast in bed would actually be really groovy!) He talked about everything but what he wanted for Christmas. That was a first.
I wrapped up our conversation finally by sharing a deep truth found in the bible (1 Corinthians 13:10-12) that says:
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And so we grow up, some sooner, some later, but always right on schedule on God’s cosmic timetable. Truth is revealed as we are forced to let go sometimes of all which we think we know. New facts emerge. We mature and change and press ever onward. Other than faith, change is our only sure constant in this life. And as we let go, we find a love: truer, bigger, and better then ourselves.
These are the times we get to be Santa to others because our faith rests secure in the love and true spirit of Jesus. This is life at its blessed. This is Christmas.
THANK YOU TO ALL THE WONDERFUL SANTAS WHO BROUGHT US CHRISTMAS JOY AND WONDER ALL THESE YEARS! GOD BLESS YOU ALWAYS!!